Overall: Minus half a star for no hood, though partially compensated by a high collar. Minus another half star for some obvious cost-saving omissions, though compensated perhaps even fully by some highly effective design aspects. So, 4.5 stars, rounded up to Five Stars for the overall rating.
Background on product familiarity: Used for a portion of my training and racing during the 2014-15 season. I’ve also used recent race suit models from Crazy Idea, Texnar, and Soul Limit, plus the La Sportiva Syborg top.
First, the first impressions out of the box: Once recovered from the initial shock of the front-and-center Snow Leopard logo, when on the hangar the construction seems relatively simple compared to more contoured suits, but when worn on the body it’s very comfortable for a slim fit, as well as accurate for the sizing chart. (Note though that both the sizing chart and the clothing label are differentiated for Europe versus U.S., e.g., I’m a medium among presumably skinny Euro metrosexuals yet a small in the Obese States of America.)
On the outside are two very large pockets with an elasticized closure, then behind the long front zipper are two large accordion-style pockets for climbing skins, and behind that is a smaller flap-closure pocket for ISMF 5.1.16 avalanche beacon compliance and/or other valuables. On the back is a massive extent of breathable mesh.
Up on top is no hood, but the high collar seals you up well against heat loss in the neck (yet is unobtrusive when unzipped). Down lower is a zippered fly. At the very bottom the gaiter is rather minimal, with the usual cut-your-own slots for your particular race boot model’s walk-ski lever, combined with typical stirrups and what might be a unique tab for securing the bottom of the suit via a boot’s instep buckle.
Second impressions, in use: The very basic elasticized closure on the large front pockets definitely saved Dynafit some money, yet they still work very effectively, with easy access yet secure closure. They are so large though that smaller objects can end up very far down – not a major drawback, but just something to keep in mind.
The front zipper has very smooth and easy operation when your fingers are very numb and nervous, while the inner accordion pockets are fairly standard for keeping your climbing skins warm and secure. (And if you really wanted to, then combined with the outer pockets, you could carry four pairs of race skins without any difficulty, although you might have some difficulty in coming up with a sensible reason to carry so many pairs of skins.)
The beacon pocket seemed secure when I test-carried a BCA T3, and it was also secure all season carrying my car key, with if anything excessive overlap in the flap-style closure, so I don’t understand the negative feedback on this in other reviews.
The gaiter bottom’s tab perfectly seals up the suit with a Dynafit EVO buckle (or probably any other boot model’s instep buckle). Given the somewhat loose fit of the gaiter, the cut-outs can shift out of alignment with the Dynafit EVO walk-ski lever, but that happens to some extent on any suit with the Dynafit side-throw lever. If you want to potentially save yourself a precious second or two on each transition, I sewed some very small pieces of soft fuzzy velcro on the suit’s inside near the cutouts, and then stuck a rectangular cutout of rough scratchy velcro on the EVO shell around the little square hole (into which the side-throw lever fits).
Once you’re done skiing, even if the weather is warm, bring some sort of jacket or other top layer so that your Snow Leopard chest doesn’t attract too much attention along the drive home at the gas station, supermarket, etc.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: So far everything is still in like-new condition, but obviously anything lycra has a limited life expectancy.
Just to clarify that my review is for the 2014-15 black & white version of the suit. The 2015-16 version not only has different colors but also a completely different exterior pocket configuration. I suspect that it might have other differences too -- this is not intended to criticize the newer version, but rather just a caveat that my review might not have any relevance for the current version.
Picture of the older color scheme in action.
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